Put another season down in the books for the Wild wild west. This division is leaps and bounds better than the NFC West, but it still has a lot to prove. With the Chiefs making the playoffs and cementing it in week 16, week 17 was rather boring in the AFC West. Nevertheless, here’s a look at what happened and what’s to come for each team.
Denver Broncos (4-12):
Looking Back: The Broncos went 1-3 without Josh McDaniels which will leave interim head coach Eric Studesville looking for a new job. The team almost came back from a 26-7 deficit in the third quarter against the Chargers, but a couple of Hail Mary attempts fell short which gave the Broncos the #2 selection in this year’s draft. Tim Tebow used his legs more than his arm running for 94 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown while the Broncos true running back, Knowshon Moreno, had just 6 carries for 41 yards. That’s a 6.8 yards per carry, but Moreno had one long run of 35 yards.
Looking Forward: It’s deep cleaning time in Dove Valley. John Elway is expected to be formally hired this week as the Broncos Vice President of Football Operations. He will help select a new head coach with much if not all of the coaching staff being replaced. Whoever the new head coach is will have to be in favor of Tebow and be able to play to his strengths. The interview process starts this week. Fans seems to want a defensive minded head coach, and for good reason. The Broncos have never given up this many yards in one season.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-6):
Looking Back: The Chiefs lost for the first time this season at Arrowhead. Their playoff status was already certain, but it’s rough to enter the playoffs on a one game losing streak. The team hosted a Darren McFadden-less Oakland Raiders team, but still gave up 209 yards on the ground and 31 points. Matt Cassel couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. He was 11-of-33 for 115 yards and 2 interceptions. The protection wasn’t there as he was sacked 4 times for a loss of 46 yards. Jamaal Charles led the team in rushing, but got the bulk of his 87 total yards on a 47 yard run.
Looking Forward: The only team in the AFC West to play next week has the tall order of hosting the Baltimore Ravens. The Birds of Prey are no joke sitting at 12-4 and #3 in total defense. Their 5th ranked rush defense provides a good wall for Charles and Thomas Jones. They’ve got momentum on their side, winning their last four games, and a good running game of their own. Ray Race sits as the 10th best rusher in the league with Willis McGahee backing him up. Even if the Chiefs get past Sunday with a win, they’ve got a long dark alley to get through before they make it to Super Bowl light.
Oakland Raiders (8-8):
Looking Back: A win against the Chiefs gave Tom Cable a shot at keeping his job, but he was fired last night. The Raiders went 5-11 last season, and now their back to at least .500 for the first time in seven years. Michael Bush took over Darren duties and picked up 137 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. Jason Campbell went 15-for-25 for 155 yards and one touchdown. It was Oakland’s defense that held the Chiefs who are averaging over 164 rushing yards per game to just 115 rushing yards. They also got to the Chiefs’ quarterbacks 7 times and picked off Cassel a couple of times. Great way to end the season.
Looking Forward: If the Raiders could bring in a steadier quarterback than Jason Campbell, they would be big-time contenders in this division. Is Orton the answer? They’ve established the run game, they have a great all-purpose yards guy in Jacoby Ford, their secondary in incredible, and they can get to opposing quarterbacks. This team is just a few steps away from Al Davis’s best dream. In the offseason, they need to find help in stopping the run. It will be interesting to see who they hire next.
San Diego Chargers (9-7):
Looking Back: For the first time since 2005, the Chargers will be watching the playoffs from the couch. They beat the Broncos to finish 9-7 in week 17, but they lost to the 3-11 Bengals the week before. Ryan Mathews really took off in his last game as a rookie. He rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries and got into the painted area 3 times. I’m still convinced that Darren McFadden threw on a Mathews’ jersey to play for the Chargers on Sunday. That made Philip Rivers’ touchdown-less performance meaningless.
Looking Forward: The Chargers are living proof that being ranked 1st in offense and 10th in defense doesn’t mean a thing. Actually, what it does mean is that special teams is much more important than we realize. After a terrible year in that department, special teams coach Steve Crosby was already let go this week. Norv Turner got the nod to coach next season which comes as a big surprise considering the Bolts started the season 2-5 and failed to make the playoffs. The reign is over and new teams are cropping up at the top of the division.
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